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Dolphins show signs of progress despite missing playoffs for 10th time in 11 years

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    Miami Dolphins strong safety Chris Clemons (30) celebrates with free safety Reshad Jones (20) after Jones intercepted a ball thrown by Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)The Associated Press

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    Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)The Associated Press

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    Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush (22) gets away from Buffalo Bills defensive end Alex Carrington (92) during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)The Associated Press

Consecutive December victories give the Miami Dolphins reason to hope they'll be playing for higher stakes at this time next year.

The Dolphins began preparations Monday for a mostly meaningless season finale, disappointed they'll again sit out the playoffs but buoyed by recent signs of progress. Miami (7-8) beat Buffalo 24-10 Sunday, then was eliminated from the postseason race minutes later when Cincinnati claimed the final AFC playoff berth by beating Pittsburgh.

The Dolphins will be playoff spectators for the 10th time in 11 years. Other negative streaks will also continue: 39 years without a Super Bowl title, 28 years without a Super Bowl berth, and 20 years since Miami last played in the AFC championship game.

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